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Visiting scientist to discuss new perspectives in evolutionary biology

Mary Jane West-Eberhard, a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, will present a public lecture, "Development and Evolution: a Darwinian Renaissance in Biology," at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 19, in New Mexico State University's Hardman Hall, Room 208.



Evolutionary biologist Mary Jane West-Eberhard will discuss new perspectives on the role of genes in development and evolution in a public presentation at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 19, at New Mexico State University.

West-Eberhard will discuss how Charles Darwin's writings emphasized that changes in the environment can alter developmental pathways, thereby driving adaptive evolution, and how modern discoveries in genomics and evolutionary development are stimulating new interest in this idea. She will develop this perspective on the role of genes in development and evolution in a talk for the general public.

West-Eberhard's early work in evolutionary biology focused on the natural history and behavior of social wasps. Her discovery that the dominance interactions between female wasps founding new colonies determined which females bred and which were non-reproductive helpers led to broader synthetic work in the fields of social and sexual selection. Her work in these and other areas led to her election to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her ideas on the role of development in evolution are discussed in her book "Developmental Plasticity and Evolution," which received the American Association of Publishers' Hawkins Award for the best scholarly book of 2003.

West-Eberhard's visit is part of the university's ADVANCE Visiting Professors Program, which seeks to bring about increased interaction between nationally recognized female scholars and students of all ages. During her visit she will meet with NMSU graduate students who have spent the spring semester discussing her book. She also will give a presentation on tropical biology and social insects at a local elementary school and will meet with faculty members in the sciences to discuss "Women in Science: a Cross-Cultural Perspective."